Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Coolie Odyssey - David Dabydeen

"To bring me to this library of graves,
This small clearing of scrubland.
There are no headstones, epitaphs, dates.
The ancestors curl and dry to scrolls of parchment.
They lie like texts
Waiting to be written by the children
For whom they hacked and ploughed and saved
To send faraway schools.
'Is foolishness fill your head
Me dead.
Dog-bone and dry-well.
Got no story to tell.
Just how me born stupid is so me gone.'
Still we persist before the grave
Seeking fables."

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles - Haruki Murakami

"You can't I guess. There's nothing you can do. There's no way to prevent baldness. Guys who are going to go bald go bald. When there time comes, that's it: They just go bald. There's nothing you can do to stop it. They tell you you can keep from going bald with proper hair care, but that's bullshit. Look at the bums who sleep in Shinjuku Station. They've all got great heads of hair. You think they're washing it every day with Clinique or Vidal Sassoon or rubbing Lotion X into it? That's what the cosmetics makers will tell you, to get your money."

"I bet the reason people are afraid of going bald is because it makes them think of the end of life. I mean, when your hair starts to thin, it must feel as if your life is being worn if you've taken a giant step in the direction of death, the last Big Consumption."

"When you sneak into somebody's backyard, it does seem that guts and curiousity are working together. Curiousity can bring guts out of hiding at times, maybe even get them going. But curiousity usually evaporates. Guts have to go for the long haul. Curiousity's like a fun friend you can't really trust. It turns you on and then it leaves you to make it on your own - with whatever guts you can muster."

"If people lived forever - if they never got older - if they could just go on living in this world, never dying, always healthy - do you think they'd bother to think hard about things, the way we're doing now? I mean, we think about just about everything, more or less - philosophy, psychology, logic. Religion. Literature. I kinda think, if there were no such thing as death, that complicated thoughts and ideas like that would never come into the world. I mean...this is what I think, but...people have to think seriously about what it means for them to be alive here and now because they know they're going to die sometime. Right? Who would think about what it means to be alive if they were just going to go on living forever? Why would they have to bother? Or even if they should bother, they'd probably just figure, 'Oh, well, I've plenty of time for that. I'll think about it later.' But we can't wait till later. We've got to think about it right this second...Nobody knows what's going to happen. So we need death to make us evolve. That's what i think. Death is this huge, bright thing, and the bigger and brighter it is, the more we have to drive ourselves crazy thinking about things."

The Life of God (as told my himself) - Franco Ferrucci

“Bored by the reptiles and mystified by the birds, I decided that it was time for a fresh idea, and soon I hit upon a radical new concept. I wanted life to meditate upon itself so as to better comprehend itself. There followed from this that my next living beings should bear their children inside themselves, and that their eggs should open in the warmth of the womb instead of being hatched outside...
I had chosen the females to carry the burden because they were the more generous and patient gender.”

“I had to find an animal that I could transform into the most splendid of beings, and I immediately started to look around…I rejected the ferocious inhabitants, the tiger, the alligator, the predator. Violent types wouldn’t do for this assignment…I found birds something profoundly mediocre…One disappointment followed another. The cat was too lazy, the marsupial was prone to getting lost, the worked blindly and was undecided between the wet and the dry, the serpent was perfidious [disloyal] and unable to build anything at all…Look at the dog, how distracted he gets…One day I was sitting beneath a tree on the beach, munching a banana and wondering where in creation I would find the animal I needed. Right then, from a branch above me, dropped the monkey.”

“I concede that God should not have such a profound need for affection that he immediately trusts whoever compliments him. But it is not his fault that he was born an orphan, that he spent his childhood alone and starved for affection. I’m being defensive, I suppose, so it comes naturally to fall into the third person.”

“It was also necessary to do something to reinforce sexual desire, which had dwindled dangerously. I decided to invent clothes to cover limbs of both men and women to see if they would become more desirable. The genitials figured prominently in my plan; they became invisible to the point of being dreamed about and even idolized. This proved an excellent ploy. The human body, which naked soon provokes only boredom mixed with irritation, once covered is clouded in an indistinct √©lan. Such is the power of illusion.”

“In reality there were neither angels nor pairs of gods. There was only myself, capable of so many mistakes, something that I found hard to get across to humankind…My only genius consisted in having created someone who might understand and describe me…I was waiting for them to become clever enough to explain to me who I was and why I was carrying on in such an unseemly manner.”

“Everything led me to believe that the devil was the fruit of an overactive human imagination. But I also knew that when there’s talk about something, it means that something does exist, and it becomes a matter of looking for it in the right place. Finally I gave in to the most obvious but distasteful strategy before me: I became an exorcist.”

“The popes appearance was so incredibly noble. I was about to fall to my knees and ask him to give me a sign of paternal welcome, but I caught myself just in time. ‘It is I who am his God,’ I repeated to myself several times.”

“[God leaving] I go back and forth, make the rounds, close the doors, turn off the lights. My anxiety about watering the plants before I leave has made me overflow more than one region. My moving the furniture and my emptying the drawers has caused some recent earthquakes that could have been avoided with more caution on my part. I feel sorry about that.”

“Confused prayers reach me, intersected by electrical signals. I can barely make out the words.”

"Worshipping an Orb called Christ" The Illustrated Man - Ray Bradbury

[EXCERPT] "Consider the Chinese," replied Father Peregrine imperturbably. "What sort of Christ do Christian Chinese worship? An oriental Christ, naturally. You've all seen oriental Nativity scenes. How is Christ dressed? In Eastern robes. Where does He walk? In Chinese settings of bamboo and misty mountain and crooked tree. His eyelids taper, His cheekbones rise. Each country, each race adds something to Our Lord. I am reminded of the Virgin of Guadalupe, to whom all Mexico pays its love. Her skin? Have you noticed the paintings of her? A dark skin, like that of her worshippers. Is this blasphemy? Not at all. It is not logical that men should accept a God, no matter how real, of another color. I often wonder why our missionaries do well in Africa, with a snow-white Christ. Perhaps because white is a sacred color, in albino, or any form, to the African tribes. Given time, mighn't Christ darken there too? The form does not matter. Content is everything. We cannot expect these Martians to accept an alien form. We shall give them Christ in their own image."
"There's a flaw in your reasoning, Father," said Father Stone. "Won't the Martians suspect us of hypocrisy? They will realize that we don't worship a round, globular Christ, but a man with limbs and a head. How do we explain the difference?"
"By showing there is none. Christ will fill any vessel that is offered. Bodies or globes. He is there, and each will worship the same thing in a different guise. What is more, we must believe in this globe we give the Martians. We must believe in a shape which is meaningless to us as to form. This spheroid will be Christ. And we must remember that we ourselves, and the shape of our Earth Christ, would be meaningless, ridiculous, a squander of material to these Martians."
Father Peregrine laid aside his chalk. "Now let us go into the hills and build our church."
The Fathers began to pack their equipment.

The Tipping Point - Malcolm Gladwell


"weak ties" are always more important than strong ties. Your friends, after all, occupy the same world that you do. The might work with you, or live near you, and go to the same churches, schools or parties. How much, then, would they know that you wouldn't know? Your acquaintances, on the other hand, by definition occupy a very different world than you. They are much more likely to know something that you don't....Acquaintances, in short, represent a source of social power, and the more aquaintances you have the more powerful you are...We rely on them to give us access to opportunities and worlds to which we don't belong."

"Here is another example of the subtleties of persuasion. A large group of students were recruited for what they were told was a market research study by a company making high-tech headphones. They were each given a headset and told that the company wanted to test to see how well they worked when the listener was in motion - dancing up and down, say or moving his or her head. All of the students listened to songs Linda Ronstadt and the Eagles, and then heard a radio editorial arguing that tuition at their university should be raised from its present level of $587 to $750. A third were told that while they listened to the taped radio editorial they should nod their heads vigoursly up and down. The next third were told to shake their heads from side to side. The final third were the control group. They were told to keep their heads still. When they were finished, all the students were given a short questionaire, asking them questions about the quality of the songs and the effect of the shaking. Slipped in at the end was the question the experimenters really wanted an answer to: 'What do you feel would be an appropriate dollar amount for undergraduate tuition per year?'
The answers to that question are just as difficult to believe...The students who kept their heads still were unmoved by the editorial. The tuition amount that they guessed was appropriate was $582 - or just about where tuition was already. Those who shook their heads from side to side as they listened to the editorial - even though they thought they were simply testing headset quality - disagreed strongly with the proposed increase. They wanted tuition to fall on average to $467 a year. Those who were told to nod their heads up and down, meanwhile, found the editorial very persuasive. They wanted tuition to rise, on average, to $646. The simple act of moving their heads up and down, ostensibly for another reason entirely - was sufficient to cause them to recommend a policy that would take money out of their own pockets. Somehow nodding, in the end, mattered..."

"Six degrees of separation doesn't mean that everyone is linked to everyone else in just six steps. It means that a very small number of people are linked to everyone else in a few steps, and the rest of us are linked to the world through those special few."

"One of the most infamous incidents in New York City history, for example, was the 1964 stabbing death of a young Queens woman by the name of Kitty Genovese. Genovese was chased by her assailant and attacked three times on the street, over the course of half an hour, as 38 of her neighbors watched from their windows. During that time, however, none of the 38 witnesses called the police. The case provoked rounds of self-recrimination [blame]. It became symbolic of the cold and dehumanizing effects of urban life. Abe Rosenthal, who would later become editor of the New York Times, wrote in a book about the case:
Nobody can say why the 38 did not lift the phone while Miss Genevese was being attacked, since they cannot say themselves. It can be assumed, however, that their apathy [lack of concern] was indeed one of the big-city variety. It is almost a matter of psychological survival, if one is surrounded and pressed by millions of people, to prevent them from constantly impinging on you, and the only way to do this is to ignore them as often as possible. Indifference to one's neighbor and his troubles is a conditioned reflex in life in New York as it is in other big cities.
This is the kind of environmental explanation that makes intuitive sense to us. The anonymity and alienation of big-city life makes people hard and unfeeling. The truth about Genovese, however, turns out to be a little more complicated - more interesting. Two NYC psychologists...subsequently conducted a series of studies to try to understand what they dubbed the "bystander problem." They staged emergencies of one kind or another in different situations in order to see who would come and help. What they found, surprisingly, was that the one factor above all else that predicted helping behavior was how many witnesses there were to the event.

In one experiment, for example, Latane and Darley had a student alone in a room stage an epileptic fit. When there was just one person next door, listening, that person rushed to the student's aid 85% of the time. But when subjects thought that there were 4 others also overhearing the seizure, they came to the students aid only 31% of the time. In another experiment, people who saw smoke seeping out from under a doorway would report it 75% of the time when there were on their own, but the incident would be reported only 38% of the time when they were in a group. When people are in a group, in other words, repsonsibility for acting is diffused. They assume that someone else will make the call, or they assume that because no one else is acting, the apparent problem - the seizure-like sounds from the other room, the smoke from the door - isn't really a problem. In the case of Kitty Genovese, then, social psychologists like Latane and Darley argue, the lesson is not that no one called despite the fact that 38 people heard her scream; it's that no one called BECAUSE 38 people heard her scream. Ironically, had she been attacked on a lonely street with just one witness, she might have lived."

Runners Guide to the Meaning of Life - Amby Burfoot


"Running has its roots in our prehistory. We don't run because Baron de Coubertin invented the modern Olympic Games in 1896, but because our survival once depended upon it and, to a lesser extent, still does. Millenia ago, small packs of early man stalked game for food on the plains of East Africa, chasing for a while, then resting, then chasing again until their hapless prey was exhausted and could escape no more."

"To describe the agony of a marathon to someone who's never run it is like trying to explain color to someone who was born blind." - Jerome Drayton, Canadian winner of the 1977 Boston Marathon

"I have learned that there is no failure in running, or in life, as long as you keep moving. It's not about speed and gold medals. It's about refusing to be stopped. You might find that one particular direction proves difficult, but there are many directions on a compass. Infinite, in fact. As long as you keep searching, you'll find your winning way."

" You don't need any skill to run. In golf, by contrast, you have to hit your drives straight enough to stay in the fairway, and that requires thinking about a dozen technical details of your golf swing. In tennis, you'd better master the backhand stroke, or your rallies will be short. In swimming...well, you'll drown if you don't develop some skills.
Not so with running. Every 3-year-old knows how to run. At the same time, running is the most vigorous excercise known to science. It forces your heart to pump vast quantities of blood throughout your body - including your brain. So the brain's getting all this oxygen at a time when it doesn't have any work to do. You're just running. You're not putting together business plans, solving quadratic equations, or trying to keep your drive from slicing off the fairway.
No wonder the brain spins out most fantastical thoughts while you're running. No wonder fresh, creative ideas pop into your head when you're least expecting them. No wonder millions of runners consider their workouts the perfect time to reenergize both their bodies and their minds."

Post-Mortem - Patricia Cornwell


"The dead have never bothered me. It is the living I fear...."

"You artists think you're the only ones who can relate to these things [separation]. Many of us have the same feelings, the same emptiness, the same loneliness. But we don't have the tools to verbalize them. So we carry on, we struggle. Feelings are feelings. I think people's feelings are pretty much the same all over the world."

The Science of Harry Potter - Roger Highfield

[EXCERPT] "If Newton had not...voyaged through strange seas of thought alone, someone else would have. If Marie Curie had not lived, we still would have discovered the radioactive elements polonium and radium. But if J.K.Rowling had not been born, we would never have known about Harry Potter..."

Fight Club - Chuck Palahniuk


"To warm her up, to make her laugh, I tell Marla about the woman in Dear Abby who married a handsome successful mortician and on their wedding night, he made her soak in a tub of ice water until her skin was freezing to the touch, and then he made her lie in bed completely still while he had intercourse with her cold inert body. The funny thing is this woman had done this as a newlywed, and gone on to do it for the next ten years of marriage and how she was writing to Dear Abby to ask if Abby thought it meant something."

"Marla's philosophy of life, she told me, is that she can die at any moment. The tragedy of her life is that she doesn't."

Life at these Speeds - Jeremy Jackson


"For if I act with decency, surely I will not impress indecent people."

"It's difficult for us to compete in one of the least glamorized, least appreciated, least popular sports, knowing full well that this sport indeed is the most primal, the most symbolic, perhaps the most meaningful of all sports. We don't receive recognition we deserve - and you know this as well as we do. Yes, we all like a good show, we all like a good struggle, we want to be pushed, to be challenged from unexpected quarters. We want a certain quantity of the unknown to rear before us periodically so that we might wrestle it down or, more likely, be knocked flat by it and stand up and train harder in order to finally conquer that which had defeated us. That random element is part of the mythic essence of track and field..."

The Other Kingdom - Victor Price

[EXCERPT] “Jock looked at his watch and said: ‘Right, lads, now down to business. Sixteen two-twenties [220yds -> 200m] at thirty-one seconds a piece. Easy Stuff.’

They all knew what was coming. Physiologically stated, they would be expanding their circulo-respiratory efficiency; in human terms it meant forcing yourself to run when you were already exhausted and then running again. You pushed your body to the limits of what it could bear in order to make it a tool.

{Once,…Jock had told them a story: a famous runner, while still a schoolboy, ran twenty miles and finished in tears. When someone asked him what he was crying for he said: ‘It hurts so much.’ That he was free to stop had simply not occurred to him.}

In effect he [Colin Warnock] was not free, nor were they. Day after day, month after month, they would ignore the clamor of tissue for rest and force themselves to do what was impossible yesterday. …Each time they finished a schedule and stood there trembling…Jock would make light of it all with a quip. That would be their sole reward.

Thirty-one seconds for the first furlong (220yds) was child’s play. They ran it easily, then walked across the diameter of the track, back to the start.

The interval [rest] between the furlongs worked out at about a minute and a half. They would finish, hear the time from Jock, cross the width of the track and start again.

…The stitch was unbearable….Surely they would see the agony he was in? In fact they saw nothing. He finished, sprawling like a ragdoll. Turning slowly, he found them already on the way back to the start. Head down, he followed.

“Thirty-one flat. Not bad. Eight more to go.”

To Warnock each [repeat] seemed to last minutes longer than the one before. As they got up to nine, ten, eleven, the blood sang in his head and he thought he was going to faint. He managed to keep in contact with the others by [making] an effort that he thought would tear his body in two. He could hear nothing for the roaring in his ears, see nothing but the track at his feet. Each time they stopped he wandered blindly back to his position; should it kill him he would not keep them waiting, as Jock had taunted. He was running on a mixture of will-power and the memory of past races, the knowledge that the body is always capable of an extra ounce of effort. When it betrays, it betrays suddenly, in a faint. He knew he had to distrust the evidence of his senses, battered as they were and longing for peace.

They settled to their marks for the twelfth time. No words now; only the dry rasp of breathing. Foley’s eyes wore a dull gloss: this was what he loved and feared, the triumph of the spirit over the body, the burning away of matter in a self-inflicted purgatory.”

Satanic Verses - Salman Rushdie


“…you think Creation happens in a rush? So then, neither does revelation…”

“But that was what women did, he thought in those days, they were the vessels into which he could pour himself, and when he moved on, they would understand that it was his nature, and forgive. And it was true that nobody blamed him for leaving,…how many abortions…how many broken hearts. In all those years he was the beneficiary of the infinite generosity of women, but he was it victim, too, because their forgiveness made possible the deepest and sweetest corruption of all, namely the idea that he was doing nothing wrong.”

“…that even the scientists were busily re-inventing God, that once they had proved the existence of a single unified force of which electromagnetism, gravity and the strong and weak forces of the new physics were all merely aspects, avatars, one might say, or angels, then what would we have but the oldest thing of all, a supreme entity controlling all creation… ‘You see, what our friend says is, if you choose between some type of disembodied force-field and the actual living God, which one would you go for? Good point, na? You can’t pray to an electric current. No point asking a wave-form for the key to Paradise.”

"...Gibreel appeared to the Prophet and found himself spouting rules, rules, rules, until the faithful could scarcely bear the prospect of any more revelation,...rules about every damn thing, if a man farts let him turn his face to the wind, a rule about which hand to use for the purpose of cleaning one's behind. It was as if no aspect of human existence was to be left unregulated, free. The revelation...told the faithful how much to eat, how deeply they should sleep, and which sexual positions had received divine sanction, so that they learned that sodomy and the missionary position were approved of by the archangel, whereas forbidden postures included all those in which the female was on top. Gibreel further listed the permitted and forbidden subjects of conversation, and earmarked the parts of the body which could not be scratched no matter how unbearably they might itch. ...required animals to be killed slowly, by bleeding, so that by experiencing their deaths to the full they might arrive at an understanding of the meaning of their lives, for it is only at the moment of death that living creatures understand that life has been real, and not a sort of dream. ...specified the manner in which a man should be buried, and how his property should be divided, so that Salman the Persian got to wondering what manner of God this was that sounded so much like a businessman."

"But in Yathrib the women are different, you don't know, here in Jahilia you're used to ordering your females about but up there they won't put up with it. When a man gets married he goes to live with his wife's people! Imagine! Shocking, isn't it?...Well, our girls were beginning to go for that type of thing, getting who knows what sort of ideas in their [womens] heads, so at once, bang, out comes the rule book, the angel starts pouring out rules about what women mustn't do, he starts forcing them back into the docile attitudes... docile or maternal, walking three steps behind or sitting at home being wise...How the women of Yathrib laughed at the faithful...the faithful women did as he ordered them. They Submitted: he was offering them Paradise, after all."

"...when he sat at the Prophet's feet, writing down rules rules rules , he change things. Little things at first. If Mahound recited a verse in which God was described as all-hearing, all-knowing, I would write, all-knowing, all-wise. Here's the point: Mahound did notice the alterations. So there i was, actually writing the Book, or rewriting, anyway, polluting the word of God with my own profane language. But, good heavens, if my poor words could not be distinguished from the Revelation by God's own Messenger, then what did that mean? What did that say about the quality of the divine poetry?...and now i was writing the Revelation and nobody was noticing, and i didn't have the courage to own up. ...the next time i changed a bigger thing. He said Christian, I wrote down Jew. He'd notice that, surely; how could he not? But when i read him the chapter he nodded and thanked me politely, and i went out of his tent with tears in my eyes."

The Singularity is Near - Ray Kurzweil

“The reason memories can remain intact even if ¾ of the connections [synapses] have disappeared is that the coding method used appears to have properties similar to those of a hologram. In a hologram, information is stored in a diffuse pattern throughout an extensive region. If you destroy ¾ of the hologram, the entire image remains intact, although with only one quarter of the resolution…This explains why older memories persist but nonetheless appear to “fade”, because their resolution has diminished.”

“We have 50 billion neurons in the cerebellum that deal with skill information, billions in the cortex that perform the transformations for perception and rational planning, but only about 80,000…dealing with high-level emotions. It is important to point out that [they] are not doing rational problem solving, which is why we don’t have rational control over our responses to music or over falling in love. The rest of the brain is heavily engaged, however, in trying to make sense of our mysterious high-level emotions.”

"Science is the New God" Angels & Demons - Dan Brown

[EXCERPT] “Medicine, electronic communications, space travel, genetic manipulation…these are the miracles about which we now tell our children. These are the miracles we herald as proof that science will bring us the answers. The ancient stories of immaculate conceptions, burning bushes, and parting seas are no longer relevant. God has become obsolete. Science has won the battle. We concede.But science’s victory has cost every one of us. And it has cost us deeply.

Science may have alleviated the miseries of disease and drudgery and provided an array of gadgetry for our entertainment and convenience, but it has left us in a world without wonder. Our sunsets have been reduced to wavelengths and frequencies. The complexities of the universe have been shredded into mathematical equations. Even our self-worth as human beings has been destroyed. Science proclaims that Planet Earth and its inhabitants are a meaningless speck in the grand scheme. A cosmic accident. Even the technology that promises to unite us, divides us. Each of us is now electronically connected to the globe, and yet we feel utterly alone. We are bombarded with violence, division, fracture, and betrayal. Skepticism has become a virtue. Cynicism and demand for proof has become enlightened thought. Is it any wonder that humans now feel more depressed and defeated than they have at any point in human history? Does science hold anything sacred? Science looks for answers by probing our unborn fetuses. Science even presumes to rearrange our own DNA. It shatters God’s world into smaller and smaller pieces in quest of meaning…and all it finds is more questions.

The ancient war between science and religion is over. You have won. But you have not won fairly. You have not won providing answers. You have won by so radically reorienting our society that the truths we once saw as signposts now seen inapplicable. Religion cannot keep up. Scientific growth is exponential. It feeds on itself like a virus. Every new breakthrough opens doors for new breakthroughs. Mankind took thousands of years to progress from the wheel to the car. Yet only decades from the car into space. Now we measure scientific progress in weeks. We are spinning out of control. The rift between us grows deeper and deeper, and as religion if left behind, people find themselves in a spiritual void. We cry out for meaning. And believe me, we do cry out. We see UFOs, engage in channeling, spirit contact, out-of-body experiences, mindquests-all these eccentric ideas have a scientific veneer, but they are unashamedly irrational. They are the desperate cry of the modern soul, lonely and tormented, crippled by its own enlightenment and its inability to accept meaning in anything removed from technology.

Science, you say, will save us. Science, I say, has destroyed us. Since the days of Galileo, the church has tried to slow the relentless march of science, sometimes with misguided means, but always with benevolent intention. Even so, the temptations are too great for man to resist. I warn you, look around yourselves. The promises of science have not been kept. Promises of efficiency and simplicity have bred nothing but pollution and chaos. We are a fractured and frantic species…moving down a path of destruction.

Who is this God science? Who is the God who offers his people power but no moral framework to tell you how to use that power? What kind of God gives a child fire but does not warn the child of its dangers? The language of science comes with no signposts about good and bad. Science textbooks tell us how to create a nuclear reaction and yet they contain no chapter asking us if it is a good or a bad idea.

To science, I say this. The church is tired. We are exhausted from trying to be your signposts. Our resources are drying up from our campaign to be the voice of balance as you plow blindly on in your quest for smaller chips and larger profits. We ask not why you will not govern yourselves, but how can you? Your world moves so fast that if you stop even for an instant to consider the implications of your actions, someone more efficient will whip past you in a blur. So you move on. You proliferate weapons of mass destruction, but it is the Pope who travels the world beseeching leaders to use restraint. You clone living creatures, but it is the church reminding us to consider moral implications of our actions. You encourage people to interact on phones, video screens, and computers, but it is the church who opens its doors and reminds us to commune in person as we were meant to do. You even murder unborn babies in the name of research that will save lives. Again, it is the church who points out the fallacy of this reasoning.

And all the while, you proclaim the church is ignorant. But who is more ignorant? The man who cannot define lighting, or the man who does not respect its awesome power? This church is reaching out to you. Reaching out to everyone. And yet the more we reach, the more you push us away. Show me proof there is a God, you say. I say use your telescopes to look to the heavens, and tell me how there could not be a God!

You ask what does God look like. I say, where did that question come from? The answers are one and the same. Do you not see God in your science? How can you miss Him! You proclaim that even the slightest change in the force of gravity or the weight of an atom would have rendered our universe a lifeless mist rather than our magnificent sea of heavenly bodies, and yet you fail to see God’s hand in this? Is it really so much easier to believe that we simply chose the right card from a deck of billions? Have we become so spiritually bankrupt that we would rather believe in mathematical impossibility than in a power greater than us?

Whether or not you believe in God, you must believe this. When we as a species abandon our trust in the power greater than us, we abandon our sense of accountability. Faith…all faiths…are admonitions that there is something we cannot understand, something to which we are accountable…With faith we are accountable to each other, to ourselves, and to a higher truth. Religion is flawed, but only because man is flawed. If the outside world can see this church as I do…looking beyond the ritual of these walls…they would see a modern miracle…a brotherhood of imperfect, simple souls wanting only to be a voice of compassion in a world spinning out of control.

Are we obsolete? Are these men dinosaurs? Am I? Does the world really need a voice for the poor, the weak, the oppressed, the unborn child? Do we really need souls like these who, though imperfect, spend their lives imploring each of us to read signposts of morality and not lose our way

"Animals in captivity" Life of Pi - Yann Martel

[EXCERPT] “Well-meaning but misinformed people think animals in the wild are “happy” because they are “free”. These people usually have a large, handsome predator in mind…The life of the wild animal is simple, noble and meaningful, they imagine. Then it is captured by wicked men and thrown into tiny jails. Its “happiness” is dashed. It yearns mightily for “freedom” and does all it can to escape. Being denied its “freedom” for too long, the animal becomes a shadow of itself, its spirit broken. So some people imagine.

This is not the way it is.

Animals in the wild lead lives of compulsion and necessity within an unforgiving social hierarchy in an environment where the supply of fear is high and the supply of food is low and where territory must constantly be defended and parasites forever endured…The smallest changes can upset them. They want things to be just so, day after day, month after month. Surprises are highly disagreeable to them…In the wild, animals stick to the same paths for the same pressing reasons, season after season. In a zoo, if an animal is not in its normal place in its regular posture at the usual hour, it means something…a reason to inspect the dung, to cross-examine the keeper, to summon the vet. All this because a stork is not standing where it usually stands!

But let me pursue for a moment only one aspect of the question.

If you went to a home, kicked down the front door, chased the people who lived there out into the street and said, “Go! You are free! Free as a bird! Go! Go!”-do you think they would shout and dance for joy? They wouldn’t. Birds are not free. The people you’ve just evicted would sputter, “With what right do you throw us out? This is our home. We own it. We have lived here for years. We’re calling the police, you scoundrel.”

…Animals are territorial. That is the key to their minds. Only a familiar territory will allow them to fulfill the two relentless imperatives of the wild: the avoidance of enemies and the getting of food and water. A biologically sound zoo enclosure-whether cage, pit, moated island, corral, terrarium, aviary or aquarium- is just another territory, peculiar only in its size and in its proximity to human territory…Territories in the wild are large not as a matter of taste but of necessity. In a zoo, we do for animals what we have done for ourselves with houses: we bring together in a small space what in the wild is spread out. Whereas before for us the cave was here, the river over there, the hunting grounds a mile that way, the lookout next to it, the berries somewhere else- all of them infested with lions, snakes, ants, leeches and poison ivy- now the river flows through taps at hand’s reach and we can wash next to where we sleep, we can eat where we have cooked, and we can surround the whole with a protective wall and keep it clean and warm. A house is a compressed territory where our basic needs can be fulfilled close by and safely. A sound zoo enclosure is the equivalent for an animal…Finding within it all places it needs- a lookout, a place for resting, for eating and drinking, for bathing, for grooming, etc.- and finding that there is no need to go hunting, food preparing six days a week…an animal will take possession of its zoo space in the same way it would lay claim to a new space in the wild, exploring it and marking it out in the normal ways of its species, with sprays of urine perhaps. Once this moving-in ritual is done and the animal has settled, it will not feel like a nervous tenant, and even less like a prisoner, but rather like a landholder…defending tooth and nail should it be invaded. Such an enclosure is subjectively neither better nor worse for an animal than its condition in the wild; so long as it fulfills the animals needs, a territory, natural or constructed…One might even argue that if an animal could choose with intelligence, it would opt for living in a zoo, since the major differences between a zoo and the wild is the absence of parasites and enemies and the abundance of food in the first, and their respective abundance and scarcity in the second. Think about it yourself. Would you rather be put up at the Ritz with free room service and unlimited access to a doctor or be homeless without a soul to care for you?...Within the limits of their nature, they[animals] make do with what they have.

But I don’t insist. I don’t mean to defend zoos. Close them all down if you want (and let us hope that what wildlife remains can survive in what is left of the natural world). I know zoos are no longer in people’s good graces. Religion faces the same problem. Certain illusions about freedom plague them both.”